The View from Puncheon Creek: Memories
By Brenda Howard
“Memories pressed between the pages of my mind,” croons Elvis in one of his many hit songs. This week’s 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death has provoked memories for many I’m sure, myself included.
However, another occasion brought back more memories for me. On Thursday we dropped by the Historical Society and a small gesture caused these memories to flow.
Dorothy Wireman said, “I have something to give you.” She then handed me a single sheet of copy paper with two photos on it. I was looking at the bottom one, and old black and white photo of a group of children. I knew immediately what it was. Vacation Bible School, with Mr. Dan, at the old Royalton Grade School, taken between 1957 and 1959.
I was trying to identify people when Dorothy pointed at a girl in the color picture and said “That’s you.” At first I didn’t think it was me. Then I looked at the girl with a white top on. “That’s Kathy Mullins”, I said. I then knew it was me. Kathy was a classmate all through school. On closer inspection I finally figured out what I’m holding. It is a Christmas stocking! Then I knew the what, why, where, when the occasion was and who took the picture; Mr. Dan.
When I went to school at the old Royalton Grade School we had a missionary that came to our school two times a month and taught us Bible lessons, stories, and songs. Songs like “Jesus Loves Me”, “Deep and Wide”, and “This Little Light of Mine”. His name was Dan Heintzelman. We called him Mr. Dan because his last name was hard to pronounce.
His wife told stories from the bible using a felt board with cut-out figures, as needed to illustrate the story. Some of them were Joseph and his coat of many colors, Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves and fishes, and one of my favorites about a little short man named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Maybe I liked that one because at 5’1” I knew all about being short.
Anyway at Christmas time Mr. Dan played a game with the class. He would ask a question from the bible stories like “Who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus?” The first person to raise their hand got to answer. The students that got the most right won a Christmas stocking!
The stockings would contain a small toy or two, candy and peanuts. The toy might be a small car, set of jacks, or as can be seen in the picture a small ball. Well, I made sure I got my hand up first. I think I won nearly every year. One time I had answered several times so Mr. Dan said “Give someone else a chance, you’ve already won one.”
We played jacks a lot in school. We called them Bob-jacks. I had a set that most likely came from my winning stocking. I really wanted a stocking and those peanuts, even though we grew peanuts at home and my mother would roast them in the oven.
So that is what that photo is. The four students who won stockings that year, standing by the classroom Christmas tree. I think it may have been when I was in the 7th grade which would have been 1962. You can also see the water bucket sitting on the table where we got a drink. No, our school wasn’t modern, didn’t have running water, inside bathrooms, and such. We had pot-bellied coal stoves for heat. But we were very lucky indeed.
Now a missionary would not be allowed in school. I can understand why, with the diversity of beliefs, separation of church and state, and other politically correct issues of today. We were lucky to be able to have bible lessons.
We also had Vacation Bible School every summer. The group picture Dorothy gave me is one of these summer groups. Yes, I have “memories pressed between the pages of my mind” also.
Jerry Owens, Brenda Howard, Kathy Mullins, and unknown.